AAA Urges Consumers To Be Aware Of Flood-Damaged Cars

The auto club says some damaged by recent hurricanes are  being sold on the used car market.


Frederick, Md (KM). It’s happens every time there’s a hurricane or tropical storm: car damaged by floodwaters. While most are classified as “salvage” and hauled away to junkyards, some unscrupulous individuals recondition some of those vehicles, and sell them to consumers without letting them know of the car’s history, according AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The auto club says more than one-millions vehicles were submerged and destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. “Most flooded cars are not always totaled and 50% are eventually resold,” says Chris Storms, the Car Care Director of the AAA Car Care Center in Frederick. “Here at AAA we advise that buyers to use common sense and always purchase a vehicle report or get a CARFAX , or obtain a free VIN report for any vehicle suspected of having water damage in the past.”

While the car’s outward appearance may look presentable, Storms says there some things to look for to determine if a car has been damaged by water. “You got to look underneath and see if there is any soot or mud or water debris underneath the vehicle, he says. “One of the things that consumers miss is lifting the carpet up in the trunks and look into the nooks and crannies and see if there’s any soot or river silt inside the car.”

He also says “look for a waterline under the hood.” In addition, Storms says look “for signs of rust and fogging inside the headlights and tailgates. Use you sense of smell to detect the odor of disinfectants or cleansing agents used to cloak the musty smells of mold and mildew. Touch the carpet or floor mats for traces of wetness, or signs  the carpets, seats and interior were recently shampooed.”

AAA also says listen to the engine to determine if it runs smoothly, or runs rough for has abnormal noises as it runs. “Also listen to the sound system, check if it the electronics are working property because mechanical and electronic components don’t survive flooding,” says Storms.

When you go shopping for a vehicle, “absolutely have a certified mechanic inspect a vehicle, sign off on it and give you a thumbs up whether this is a good vehicle or a bad vehicles,” says Storms. He says the AAA Car Care Center will inspect any used car you may want to buy, and you don’t have to be an AAA member.

AAA says obtain a CARFAX History report on any car you want to buy. It will tell you if the vehicle has been in a flood, fire or crash, or if the odometer has been altered. Also obtain the  VIN number  and do a title search to see who owned the vehicle previously.

The auto club says only  do business with reputable car dealers and avoid newspaper or online advertisements from an individual, and stay away from online auctions.

“Buyer beware,” says Storms. “When you purchase a used car like that, unless you get it from somewhere that’s reputable and certifies it and possibly gives you a warranty, you’re pretty much on your own. That’s why you’ve really got to take the cautious steps in the beginning and be very selective. And make sure you get somebody with you to certify that the car’s not going to be a problem.”
By Kevin McManus